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Sir Gaven Donne KBE

Press Release 30 March 2010

Sir Gaven Donne KBE

Sir Gaven Donne KBE passed away peacefully amongst his family at his home in Otaramarae, Rotorua on Sunday 28 March 2010. Sir Gaven was 95 years old and is survived by his 4 children, 10 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. Lady Donne died in 2005.

Sir Gaven was a prominent jurist who worked in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands for over 60 years. Sir Gaven commenced his working life as a Barrister and Solicitor in Wellington in 1938. After four years of service in the Second World War he returned to New Zealand in 1946. He was made a partner in Morpeth Gould in 1950.

Sir Gaven was first appointed to the bench in October 1958 as a stipendiary magistrate for the newly established circuit centred in Rotorua. Sir Gaven’s first appointment overseas was to the Cook Islands in 1968.

In 1969 he was seconded to the Supreme Court of Western Samoa. Following that he assumed the appointment as stipendiary magistrate for the Tauranga circuit.

Sir Gaven returned to became Western Samoa’s Chief Justice in 1972 – the first of five such appointments.

In 1975 he was appointed Chief Justice of the Cook Islands and Nuie.

He is remembered amongst international lawyers because of the impact of his judgment in the 1978 Cook Islands electoral petition. That case has been variously described as “a landmark in British legal history” and “a triumph for the law vividly demonstrating the independence of the judiciary.” In his judgment he ruled that the votes from Cook Islanders residing overseas who had flown in from Australia and New Zealand were invalid. This resulted in a change in the government in the Cook Islands.

Sir Gaven’s services to the law were recognised by the Queen in 1979 and he was knighted with the Order of Knight Commander of the British Empire KBE.

The ultimate accolade of this remarkable career was his appointment in 1982 as the first ever Queen’s Representative of the Cook Islands.

Following the completion of his term in the Cook Islands in 1985, he became Chief Justice of Nauru.

In addition to this appointment he served as Chief Justice of Tuvalu and was a member of the Court of Appeal of Kiribati.

He retired from all judicial appointments in 1999 and since then enjoyed his retirement at Otaramarae, Rotorua.


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